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Oklahoma football: Whitney Hand on upset watch as Sooners played Kansas State

COMMENTARY — Landry Jones' performance against Kansas State was hard to watch, almost as hard as watching his bride watch him. Jenni Carlson spends game night with the Sooner quarterback's wife, OU basketball star Whitney Hand.
by Jenni Carlson Published: October 1, 2012

NORMAN — Whitney Hand threw her hands over her eyes.

She'd already seen too much.

Sitting on the concrete steps in the aisle near her in-laws' upper-deck seats, she watched the horror unfold on Owen Field below. Landry Jones dropped back, then rolled right. He fled a Kansas State defender but didn't notice the one about to hit him from behind.


As he fell to the turf, he watched a Wildcat pounce on the ball.


Landry slapped his thigh pads and pounded his fists on the ground, but Whitney already had her eyes covered by then.

Think it was tough for Oklahoma fans to endure the Sooner quarterback's struggles a week ago against K-State? Think it was hard stomaching a first-half fumble recovered for a touchdown and a second-half interception that turned the momentum in the Wildcats' favor?

No one had it worse than the quarterback's wife.

On a night when the magical season Landry hoped to return for instead unraveled in his hands, Whitney struggled, too. An evening that started with smiles and laughs on the bustling sidelines ended with tears in an all but empty upper deck. Spending the game with her and seeing her agonize was almost as tough as watching Landry's performance.

When he struggled like never before, she did, too.

“It's nerve wracking,” Whitney said. “It's hard sitting here and watching.”

And the senior guard on the women's basketball team is convinced that being an athlete makes it worse.

“I'm used to being able to control the situation,” she said. “You have all these emotions as a competitor, and you want to help or do something, and you just can't.

“I just feel really helpless sometimes.”

* * *

Pam DeCosta caught Whitney's eye and smiled.

“How are you?” the women's basketball assistant coach asked as they walked across the field to their seats.

With a couple of women's basketball recruits making unofficial visits, all of the coaches and several of the players had been standing near the south end zone for almost an hour. They snapped pictures on their iPhones, they watched the intro video — “My favorite part,” Whitney said — then they headed for their seats in Section 30.

“This is about the time I get nervous,” Whitney told DeCosta.

She twisted her ponytail and swayed side to side.

“If they took my blood pressure when the offense is on the field,” she said, “it wouldn't be good.”

She jumped up and down during a big Roy Finch run. She pumped her fist after a nice catch by Kenny Stills. But when Landry threw behind Brannon Green and missed what would've been a sure touchdown, Whitney balled up her fists and put them over her eyes.

The stadium filled with groans and grumbles.

When Whitney left her teammates late in the first quarter to meet up with her in-laws in the club level, the first thing she heard was talk about that missed touchdown. It was the topic of discussion on the radio broadcast being piped into the concourse.

“You hope missing a wide-open receiver in the end zone does not come back to haunt them,” Sooner play-by-play man Toby Rowland said.

“Missed two open receivers,” color analyst Merv Johnson added, referring to another miscue on the Sooners' opening drive.

Whitney didn't react, but you know she heard the criticism.

You can't shut off your ears.

“His parents sit up in the stands with earphones on during the game listening to gospel music,” Whitney said. “I don't blame them.

“I just think the world of him and think he deserves the absolute best. I feel very protective of him — ‘You don't talk about him like that. That's my family.'”

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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